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Powerful storm slams East Syracuse; fatalities in Madison County

  Trees were on front yards, on cars, in roads, on power lines and on top of houses in East Syracuse after a powerful storm system swept through the village Tuesday evening.

A few hours later, residents were using the remaining daylight to survey damage, many walking around or sitting in their driveway, others checking in on neighbors. Chainsaws were already roaring to begin cleaning up.

Emergency crews requested power be shut off to the entire village as power lines were down across several streets and yards.

Residents described a quick-moving storm that dropped blinding rain and stirred strong winds that brought tree limbs - and in some cases entire, very large trees -- down onto their rooftops.

"My son was sitting out on the porch and all of the sudden a big storm came," said Lauretta Hyde, who lives on East Ellis Street in the village. "And then the tree crashed down. He told me to get out of the kitchen."

Credit Ryan Delaney / WRVO
A tree wrecked power lines and a driveway on East Ellis St. in East Syracuse.

A large tree ripped up asphalt and took down power lines outside of Hyde's home, but the house was largely undamaged, just a recently replaced roof now leaking. 

Other homes in the neighborhood were less lucky. A house along McCool Avenue had a large tree resting on it. Another trees crushed part of a roof on East Heman Street.

Tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings issued around 5 p.m. sent many central New Yorkers scrambling for shelter during their evening commutes.

"We were sitting in the living room and the storm hit and next thing I know, a big boom and first thing went out was the power and then we heard the big thunk and a boom," described Karen Schuyler.

A tree collapsed in the backyard of the ranch house she rents on McCool Ave. Her landlord had already arrived with a chainsaw.

It's unclear whether a twister actually touched down, as the National Weather Service canceled some warnings early on. But the storms knocked out power to thousands of customers in central New York, with Onondaga County hit the hardest.

"I was dodging trees coming out of the air. It was crazy," said Jason Donnelly, who was in his car when the storm came through. "I couldn't see the sky. I literally couldn't see the front of my car at one point."

Credit Courtesy / Rick Grosvent
Rick Grosvent
The screen at the Midway Drive-in in Minetto.

Fatal storm

Four people died in the Madison County town of Smithfield, according to the county sheriff's office, when four houses were leveled.

Family members confirm to WRVO News that the deceased include a mother and her four-month-old daughter who were in a single family home.

Another woman, approximately 70 years old, according to family members, was in a mobile home that was also destroyed. In all, four homes collapsed.

Several downed trees blocked roads in Oswego County, where a popular drive-in movie theater's screen was ripped to shreds in Minetto.

The storms began in the early evening, first doing damage to western New York and the Finger Lakes before intensifying as they moved closer to central New York.

Tornado warnings were issued for parts of Cayuga, Onondaga and Madison and Oneida counties. The National Weather Services says it will be surveying the damage Wednesday.

Utility crews are out throughout the region trying to restore power, according to National Grid. At one point Tuesday evening, 63,000 customers had lost power from the storms.